\ ˈkēn How to pronounce keen (audio) \

Essential Meaning of keen

1 : having or showing an ability to think clearly and to understand what is not obvious or simple about something a keen intellect/intelligence/mind She's a very keen observer of the political world. See More ExamplesShe made some keen [=acute] observations. a keen witHide
2 : very strong and sensitive : highly developed The dog has a keen sense of smell. = The dog has a keen nose. keen [=acute] eyesight/hearing See More ExamplesShe had a keen awareness of what was happening. [=she knew exactly what was happening] She has a keen ear for languages. [=she is able to easily learn and understand languages] He has a keen eye for details. [=he is good at noticing details]Hide
3 : very excited about and interested in something She's a keen tennis player. = She's keen about tennis. He's a keen student of art history. = He has a keen interest in art history.

Full Definition of keen

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : intellectually alert : having or characteristic of a quick penetrating mind a keen student a keen awareness of the problem also : shrewdly astute a keen assessment
b : extremely sensitive in perception keen eyes a keen sense of smell
c : sharply contested keen competition keen debate
2a(1) : showing a quick and ardent responsiveness : enthusiastic a keen swimmer
(2) : eager was keen to begin
b of emotion or feeling : intense the keen delight in the chase— F. W. Maitland
3 : wonderful, excellent a keen idea
4a : having a fine edge or point : sharp a knife with a keen blade
b : affecting one as if by cutting keen sarcasm
c : pungent to the sense a keen scent
keen on
: very enthusiastic or excited about wasn't keen on going


keened; keening; keens

Definition of keen (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

1a : to make a loud and long cry of sorrow : to lament with a keen
b : to make a sound suggestive of a loud cry of sorrow a keening siren
2 : to lament, mourn, or complain loudly

transitive verb

: to utter with a loud wailing voice or wordless cry keened our sorrowPunch



Definition of keen (Entry 3 of 3)

: a lamentation for the dead uttered in a loud wailing voice or sometimes in a wordless cry

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Other Words from keen


keenly adverb
keenness \ ˈkēn-​nəs How to pronounce keen (audio) \ noun


keener noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for keen

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

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Choose the Right Synonym for keen


sharp, keen, acute mean having or showing alert competence and clear understanding. sharp implies quick perception, clever resourcefulness, or sometimes questionable trickiness. sharp enough to spot a confidence game keen suggests quickness, enthusiasm, and a penetrating mind. a keen observer of the political scene acute implies a power to penetrate and may suggest subtlety and sharpness of discrimination. an acute sense of style

eager, avid, keen, anxious, athirst mean moved by a strong and urgent desire or interest. eager implies ardor and enthusiasm and sometimes impatience at delay or restraint. eager to get started avid adds to eager the implication of insatiability or greed. avid for new thrills keen suggests intensity of interest and quick responsiveness in action. keen on the latest fashions anxious emphasizes fear of frustration or failure or disappointment. anxious not to make a social blunder athirst stresses yearning but not necessarily readiness for action. athirst for adventure

Examples of keen in a Sentence

Adjective When you've been trying to remember something and you suddenly remember it, the mental pleasure is keen. — Ian Frazier, Atlantic, October 2004 Indeed, tobacco processors were keen to promote variety even further by saturating and mixing the cut and spun leaf with a miscellany of spices … — Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, 1988 But Mary wasn't keen on braving the Athens streets alone so Magnus went instead; Mary would do a museum in the morning. — John le Carré, A Perfect Spy, 1986 That he took a keen interest in scientific navigation is indicated by his keeping a daybook or journal (which has not survived), and by making an honest effort to determine longitude. — Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America, 1971 The keen clear wind swept in on his left cheek, and as he bore on the helm so the Sophie answered, quicker and more nervous than he had expected. — Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander, 1970 Planting himself squarely before the two tall cowboys who were standing, he looked straight into their lean, bronzed faces. He spared a full moment for that keen cool gaze before he spoke. — Zane Grey, Desert Gold, 1913 She's a very keen observer of the political world. pilots with especially keen eyesight Verb mourners keening at a funeral victims of the disaster have been keening for weeks about the slowness of governmental aid Noun the loud keens of the widows were heard throughout the war-ravaged city
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Ibrahim also had a keen eye for creating spaces that felt calming and tranquil while still leaving a lasting impression on visitors. Helena Madden, Robb Report, 9 Oct. 2021 The reverse is true, as well: The staff has a keen eye for talent that fits the system. oregonlive, 6 Oct. 2021 Sholom Aleichem, the pen name of Shalom Rabinowitz (1859-1916), was a masterful storyteller whose keen eye, wit and humor earned him the reputation as the Jewish Mark Twain. Penny Schwartz,, 6 Oct. 2021 Investors also are keeping a keen eye on the central bank’s outlook for the future path of interest rates. NBC News, 22 Sep. 2021 But the Giants, thanks to Farhan Zaidi’s keen eye, manager Gabe Kapler’s steady hand and a crew of veterans who have seen it all before, rise above. Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Sep. 2021 Telsha’s keen eye and skillset for curating unique assortments of designs, the store is carving its’ own lane for a new kind of luxury. Greg Emmanuel, Essence, 13 Sep. 2021 Derice’s keen eye ended up paying off for Indianapolis the next season. Joel A. Erickson, The Indianapolis Star, 5 Sep. 2021 Her keen eye and unmistakable style have netted White exhibitions in the African American Museum of Philadelphia, the Arabic National Museum, Norwest Gallery, the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary art, and more. Christopher Gray, Forbes, 3 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Environmentalists in Indonesia keen to send a message about the world's worsening ocean plastics crisis have created a museum made entirely from plastics, to convince people to rethink their habits and say no to single-use bags and bottles. Reuters, CNN, 4 Oct. 2021 While these may seem like lofty demands, Tesla has seen concessions in other large markets keen to learn from the electric vehicle pioneer. Niharika Sharma, Quartz, 17 Sep. 2021 They would all be overcome by such melancholy that someone would begin to cry and keen. Olga Tokarczuk, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021 For a young person, born and raised in London and keen to experience the world, this was obvious and unarguable. Henry Wismayer, Washington Post, 8 Sep. 2021 Rick, however, has moved on, suddenly keen to leave his toxic relationship with Morty behind. Dani Di Placido, Forbes, 6 Sep. 2021 This summer, with the borders open to US citizens, plus Europeans keen to travel by car to their vacation destinations, the tourists are back in Venice. Julia Buckley, CNN, 22 Aug. 2021 As expected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, banking on a boost in popularity after Canada’s vaccine rollout and keen for a Liberal majority in the House of Commons, has called a snap fall election on Sept. 20. Laura Hensley,, 15 Aug. 2021 For travelers keen on a European getaway without a flight across the Atlantic, Quebec City offers the charms of a French or Swiss destination. Maya Kachroo-levine, Travel + Leisure, 16 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Variety understands discussions have been ongoing over the last month, with A24 keen for the film to have some sort of theatrical outing. Manori Ravindran, Variety, 2 Sep. 2021 Trump was not the first liar in the Oval Office, and unlike some of his predecessors, he was fiercely challenged by an adversarial press and an opposition party keen to decry his every statement. Rebecca Panovka, Harper's Magazine, 20 July 2021 Spanish airline Iberia launched a 10% discount for those keen to make the most of remote working’s possible final months from a temporary perch in the Canary Islands. The Christian Science Monitor, 2 Aug. 2021 Throw in excellent public transport and road links and this is a country ripe for those keen on a long, free-form vacation. CNN, 30 July 2021 While the onsens themselves can do wonders for the skin, those keen on Japanese skin care can also try the 60-minute Moist Pearl Facial ($182). Maya Kachroo-levine, Travel + Leisure, 11 June 2021 With the country's government keen to roll out the welcome mat, Athens has been taking steps that exceed those of other major tourist-dependent Mediterranean nations. Elinda Labropoulou, CNN, 1 June 2021 For those keen on getting an inside look at the first family’s tastes, the Oval Office is only the beginning. Washington Post, 26 June 2021 Spotify is yet to unleash its high-quality streams, with the service maxing out on 320kbit/sec AAC files for the time being, with lower bitrates available for those keen to save data. Barry Collins, Forbes, 22 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'keen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of keen


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a


1845, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1830, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for keen

Adjective and Noun

Middle English kene brave, sharp, from Old English cēne brave; akin to Old High German kuoni brave


Irish caoinim I lament, weep

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Time Traveler for keen

Time Traveler

The first known use of keen was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

21 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Keen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for keen


\ ˈkēn How to pronounce keen (audio) \
keener; keenest

Kids Definition of keen

1 : having a fine edge or point : sharp a keen knife
2 : having or showing mental sharpness a keen observation
3 : very sensitive (as in seeing, smelling, or hearing) keen eyesight
4 : full of enthusiasm : eager … everybody was very keen to hear details of what had happened …— J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5 : seeming to cut or sting a keen wind

Other Words from keen

keenly adverb
keenness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on keen

Nglish: Translation of keen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of keen for Arabic Speakers


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